Reiki is Not Massage
By Richelle Jarrell
The spiritual healing modality of Reiki is being regulated as massage in Florida, Utah and North Dakota, while twenty massage therapy boards exempt the practice of Reiki from massage licensure throughout the US. Reiki and massage are entirely different modalities, and work with different parts of the human system. The primary intent of Reiki, a non-invasive healing energy channeled through the hands, is to affect the spirit and the soul, while the primary intent of massage, a manipulative technique using the hands, is to affect the physical body.
Secondary effects of Reiki can include relaxation of the body, while secondary effects of massage can include a feeling of well-being in the spirit and soul. Reiki can also be used in conjunction with massage therapy. However, to say that these modalities are the same or should be regulated as the same thing is incorrect and misleading. In addition, and most importantly, regulation of the spiritual healing modality of Reiki violates the First Amendment rights of Reiki Practitioners, and constitutes a monopoly in restraint of trade by these massage boards.
The New York Massage Board reversed their position that Reiki is massage in 1999 after seeing a demonstration of Reiki at a board meeting, noting that Reiki did not fit the definition of massage as specified in the NY state massage law. The state of Maryland just passed their massage law with an exemption stating that "massage therapy does not include the laying on of hands consisting of pressure or movement on a fully clothed individual to specifically affect the electromagnetic, energy or energetic field of the human body." The North Carolina massage law exempts "the practice of techniques that are specifically intended to affect the human energy field."
The qualitative differences between Reiki and massage have been clearly recognized by the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health. The NCCAM defines five distinct domains of complementary and alternative healing practices. Reiki is listed under "Energy Therapies", which are "intended to affect the energy fields that surround and penetrate the human body. According to the NCCAM, "Reiki is based on the belief that by channeling spiritual energy through the practitioner, the spirit is healed, and it in turn heals the physical body." Conversely, massage is listed under the "Manipulative and Body-Based Methods", which are defined as "methods that are based on manipulation and/or movement of the body", wherein "massage therapists manipulate the soft tissues of the body to normalize those tissues."
Further distinctions separate Reiki from massage. Reiki does not require a recipient to undress, and it does not involve the use of oils or creams rubbed into the client's body tissues. A Reiki Practitioner does not even need to touch a client's body to perform a Reiki treatment. When a Practitioner does touch a client's body, the hands do not move, and the touch is feather-light. In Florida, massage is defined as "the manipulation of the soft tissues of the human body with the hand, foot, arm, or elbow". Clearly, Reiki fails to meet this definition of massage therapy.
Reiki is a gentle, simple technique that anyone can learn. The Japanese words "Rei" and "Ki", when combined, translate to mean "life energy of a spiritual nature", "the spiritual power of God", or "Universal Life Force Energy". The ability to do Reiki is passed from the Reiki Master/Teacher to the student through attunements or initiations in a sacred ceremony. The first level of Reiki, called First Degree, can be learned in a weekend, and students are taught how to channel Reiki energy into their own bodies for self-healing and into others. In the Second Level, students are taught to send Reiki long-distance to those in need. A Second Degree Reiki practitioner can send Reiki healing to anyone, anywhere, at any time, in a process often referred to as Long Distance Reiki or Absentia.
Reiki students are taught that Reiki has innate intelligence, and that the energy will flow to where it is needed in the body. The ability to do Reiki does not depend on the student's spiritual development or intellectual capacity, so it is available to anyone who desires to learn more about healing. Reiki has been taught to literally tens of thousands of people around the world, of all ages and backgrounds.
The education of a massage therapist is unnecessary for a Reiki practitioner. I have been a Reiki practitioner since 1993, and have taught Reiki since 1996. My competency in Reiki has never been compromised due to the fact that I lack a massage education. The competency of my students to perform Reiki is not compromised either. I don't want to knead, stroke, tap, press, stretch, compress or manipulate my clients' muscles with my hands, nor do I want to perform unclothed bodywork. I simply want to channel the spiritual healing energy of Reiki into their bodies and touch their spirit, to help them allow more healing into their lives.
Reiki must remain accessible to the public outside the umbrella of massage therapy, especially for those who would be motivated to seek out a Reiki practitioner, but not a massage therapist. One licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in working with people who have experienced trauma, including sexual abuse explains it this way: "Because Reiki works with the energy field, with clothes on, with or without touch, I would feel very comfortable referring patients for Reiki treatment who would not be able to tolerate massage (clothes off, prolonged touching, with far greater vulnerability of the client)." Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York uses Reiki on its cancer patients in active chemotherapy treatment because they cannot be massaged.
Reiki practitioners need to be able to provide Reiki without being forced to perform unclothed bodywork and learn and pay for information that is not essential to their work as Reiki practitioners. Many Reiki practitioners that I personally know or who have written to me, do not have use of their hands, either because of physical disabilities, arthritis, surgeries on their arms, or fibromyalgia. They can perform Reiki just fine, but they cannot manipulate muscles. These people should not be prevented from practicing Reiki just because they cannot attend massage school.
The Floridians for Reiki and Fairness and the Utah Reiki Alliance are actively involved in lobbying their massage boards to reverse these rulings, since Reiki does not involve any massage techniques, does not require any massage training to perform the technique competently, and fails to meet the definitions of massage outlined in the states' massage laws. Reiki stands alone as a spiritual, therapeutic healing modality and does not belong under the massage umbrella in any state.
The above article appears with permission from Massage Magazine.
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